Saturday, March 7, 2009

Two Years Ago Today

Two years ago today I lost my baby.  We found out on February 27 about 20 weeks into the pregnancy that our baby had anencephaly and would not live.  I guess technically February 27th is the day that the world fell out from under me.  But March 7 is the day my baby died and this is the date that has such meaning for me.  

This is the date that signifies "before."  Before we lost the baby.  Before I had ever known such pain and loss and grief.  Before we struggled so hard to get pregnant again.  Before we learned there were fertility problems.  Before we had a second loss - a miscarriage at 7 weeks.

I started a journal on my laptop on February 28, 2007.  I have never been much of journal writer.  I had diaries as a kid that I would start and stop over the years, but that's about it.  But when I found out that I would lose my baby, I felt like I needed to get some of what I was feeling out of me.  I had to write.  I was too numb to talk yet, but I couldn't just keep all that pain and confusion in my head.  I felt like I would explode.  So I wrote some things in a word document on my laptop (I don't think I even knew blogging existed at the time).

Here are some excerpts from what I wrote:

February 28, 2007

We found something in the results and you need to see Dr. B in the other building.  The ultrasound technician handed me a post it note with his name on it.  I felt the blood instantly drain from my face.  They don't send you to the doctor straight from the ultrasound for a good reason.  Greg and I started to walk down the hall.  This can't be good I said.   I don't know baby he said and took my hand.  My heart was pounding in my chest.

I started thinking....what could it be?  Is the placenta too close to my cervix?  The technician said she was checking for that.  Is it spina bifida?  Downs?  I don't want that - that will be so difficult.  Maybe I have a tumor in my uterus or my bladder.  Please let it be me.  Please let me have a tumor.

We check in at the women's center.  They ask for my copay.  I think but we're just talking to the doctor.  Would they really make you pay to hear bad news?  We sit in the waiting room holding hands.  It feels like an eternity.  Every time the door opens, my heart jumps.  Every other woman waiting is called.  I really start to believe that they would not make me wait this long if it was something serious.  It must have something to do with the placenta.  Maybe I'll be put on bed rest or have weekly appointments.

Finally a nurse calls my name and takes us to a room.  I sit on the exam table and Greg sits in a chair next to me.  We keep holding hands not saying anything.  I want to ask him...what could this be?  What could be wrong?  Why are they taking so long?  But I know he doesn't know and I don't want to upset him.  And if I say these things out loud my fears will be real before they have to be.  We wait for another eternity but it is only ten minutes.  Every footstep outside the door stops my heart, but they just keep walking by.

Finally the doctor comes in.  He is a nice looking man and his face tells me that he has bad news.  He looks like he feels sorry for us.  He introduces himself and sits down in front of me.  I don't remember all of what he said, only bits and pieces.  I remember hearing....anencephaly....a neural tube defect...about 1 in 1000....the brain never developed.  He puts his hands up to his skull to demonstrate and I think oh my God, my baby only has half a head?  It is a fatal condition...the baby would only live a few hours, or was it days, after delivery.  They didn't know until the ultrasound because everything else develops fine.  But I remember seeing two arms and legs.  The baby waved, put her left arm up to her forehead like Greg does when he sleeps.  We saw the heart beating, the four chambers of the heart, the face.  Everything looked fine.    The doctor says they don't really know why this happens.....could be a lack of folic acid.  
But I did that.  I took prenatal vitamins.  I'm not an idiot.  He says he was on the phone calling another doctor, trying to schedule a D&E.  Its a very specialized procedure.  Some women choose to carry to full term, but he doesn't recommend that.  Waiting increases the danger to me.  He hands me two paper towels because there is no Kleenex in here.

I don't remember much else until we get outside.  Its raining.  I hate walking in the rain.  But now I don't care.  Greg says he's driving me home.  Right.  We drove here separately.  I can't say anything.  This cannot be real. Everything feels heavy and foggy, like a dream.  When I get in the car I think....last time I was in here everything was different.  I was so excited and happy.  I can  picture Greg standing by his car as I drove up.  We walked into the hospital holding hands, talking about the snow on Mt. Diablo and how I had to pee so bad even though I didn't drink as much water as they told me to.  Greg gets in the car and starts crying.  We hug.  I ask him if he is okay to drive home.

It rains all the way home.  I keep seeing that little hand waving at me.  Seeing Greg smile at me and our baby on the ultrasound monitor.  I will never forget these images that for a moment were so wonderful and happy and now are so painful and sad.  A couple of times I think that this must be a mistake.  This just cannot be happening.  In the span of a couple of hours everything has changed.

I remember the dreams I had.  I'm scared to remind Greg of this as if it somehow makes it my fault.  I hadn't told him exactly what I dreamt anyway, just that I had a bad dream about the baby.  I dreamt that something was wrong with the baby's head.  I had woken up and told myself to relax, all pregnant women worry, have bad dreams.  Only now something IS wrong with my baby's head.

I had finally stopped worrying about the pregnancy.  I had finally started to feel good again, well enough to get excited and make some real plans.  I feel bad because I was so sick and unhappy for the first trimester.  I did not like being pregnant and I complained a lot.  I wanted to skip the whole pregnancy thing and just have a baby.  I shouldn't have complained.  I didn't understand then  Now I do.

Finally we are home and sitting on the couch in silence.  We go back and forth between crying and just sitting.  I think we need to call our moms.  But I don't want to yet.  As soon as we do, as soon as I say the words out loud to someone, its out there, its really true.  Other people will know.  We will have to tell everyone and I don't know if I can bear this.  I have to call my mom.  As soon as she hears my voice, she knows something is very wrong.  She is coming over.  I don't know what to do.  I am so tired.  And starving.  What do we do now?

March 1

I google pregnancy loss.  There are many websites.  All seem to list pregnancy loss as miscarriage, stillborn or neonatal loss.  None of those are me.  I find a website for anencephaly support and go there.  This is a website for women who choose to carry their baby to full term. The website counsels you and offers you support to complete the pregnancy.  Many of these websites are religious and don't consider mine a valid choice.  How can that be?  Half of anencephaly babies die in utero.  A quarter die minutes after birth.  A quarter might live a few days.  Is my choice not valid?  It doesn't even feel like a choice to me.  I never even considered the alternative until I see these websites and read these stories.  But I know this decision is right for me.  I ask Greg if it is right for him.  Thank God we agree on this.

March 2

I start looking at adoption websites.  I find Justin & Brian's page and imagine what Greg and I would put on ours, what would we say, what pictures would we choose.  I am thinking this and my baby isn't even dead yet.

March 6

Today is my pre-op and I think I am scared.  I was in bed last night watching TV and I started to feel very anxious and worried that I would have trouble sleeping so Greg got me some Tylenol PM.  Even still, I woke up several times, heart pounding, thinking I was late for my appointment.

Since last week (its been a week feels like only an hour and a month at the same time), whenever I think about the procedure today and the surgery tomorrow and I am relatively calm.  Which you wouldn't expect from me.

I'm the person who almost left the hospital, had to call Kathleen to talk me down and then sat sobbing in the waiting room when I had to have my first blood test in college.  My only experience with surgery was when I had an infected spider bite.  It wasn't even real surgery, it was a procedure in the doctor's office.  I was only about 9, but my mom AND a nurse had to hold me down.  As an adult, I would get anxious for two days before a Pap Smear.  I pay extra for the gas when I get a cavity filled.

But I don't feel panic this time.   I will come out of this alive.  My baby will not.  What's going to happen to my baby is so much worse than what is going to happen to me.  I can take it.  I am the mother and I have to be strong for my baby.  Plus, they gave me good drugs....

The pre-op was okay.  I had taken an anti-anxiety pill and two Vicodin so I was pretty out of it.  Dr. B is so nice.  He talks to me as he puts the laminaria in my cervix - 8 little sticks of seaweed that will help me dilate in preparation for tomorrow.  He explains that they will each get to be about the size of a pencil.  Holy shit - eight pencils in there?  He keeps the conversation light.  At one point he says how this kind of reminds him of The Simpsons when they are working in the nuclear plant - the nuclear rods, you know?  I look over at Greg like - Seriously?  Because that's not at all what it reminds me of.  It is kind of funny though.  I appreciate that he is talking about something and that we aren't doing this horrible thing in silence.

March 8

So its over.  

I don't remember anything from the surgery.  I was put under anesthesia.  I started to come to as they were rolling me out and I think asked the nurse if it was a boy or a girl.  And if it was definitely anencephaly.  I'm not sure I made much sense, but she understood me and told me it was a girl and it was definitely anencephaly.  Then I was out again.  I come to again in recovery an ask her the same two questions.  And then I was out again.

When I finally wake up, Greg is sitting on my left, holding my hand.  I tell him I think the nurse told me it was a girl and he says he knows, the doctor told him.  I am so glad he is here.....

March 18

Some "its been two weeks" thoughts:
  • This is the hardest thing I have ever gone through
  • I still can't quite believe my baby is dead.
  • I am so thankful that Greg is my husband and partner.  He is the best support and I just love him so much.  I cannot imagine going through this without him.
  • We have a wonderful family and incredible friends.  I knew that before, but something like this really reminds me in a very concrete way.  I am overwhelmed by the love and support that we've gotten.  It has made this more bearable.  People don't know what to say, they feel helpless - I would too.  But a phone call, an email, flowers, a meal make a world of difference.  I have learned much from my friends in the last two weeks.
  • I'm not only sad for myself, but my heart breaks for husband.  And I am so sad that our parents are so sad.  And I can't imagine how my brother and sister-in-law must feel (we were due almost the same day).
  • We will have another baby.  At this point (and I keep going back and forth), I want to try again.  But I am willing to adopt.  We will have another baby one way or another.
  • I don't think this "happened for a reason."  I think sometimes, things just happen.  And there was nothing I could have done to stop this.  Some things are out of our control.  And I hate that.  But I accept it.
  • I am going to be okay.

Back to 2009.  So here I am two years later, remembering the worst days of my life.  Why?

Because in a strange way it makes me feel better.  As I type this and remember, it makes me cry a lot and even smile a little.  I have not shared most of these details with anyone except my husband.  And even though not many may read here, part my story is now out there.  And that makes me feel better.

And because I am still a childless mother.  I have lost another and I have struggled and struggled to get pregnant.  This place is where I still find myself.  But I know that even if I wasn't still a childless mother, that in the future when I have living children, I will always stop on this day and remember my first baby.  She deserves that.  She was a life and she mattered.

After we lost her and I went to message boards and found other people like me and read their stories, I saw that many people named their lost babies.  I admit, at first I thought that was a little strange and decided it was not for me.  We had a girl's name picked out, but I felt like I didn't know HOW to name her.  I had no birth certificate, no grave.  Its not like I would refer to her as her name if and when I talked about with people.  I didn't feel like I really needed it.  It was enough to think of her as just "my baby."
Gradually, I began to look at it differently.  I started to feel like my baby deserved a name.  The name wasn't for me, it was for this life that was lost.  A life that was much more than a few cells, a life that probably looked a lot like a very tiny baby.  I don't know what she looked like, I never saw her.  But I still see that little hand waving at me and I know that she was beautiful.

I have kept her name to myself for two years.  And mostly I will continue to do so.  But I will write this here, on this very sad and special day....

You are so missed Naomi, my lost little baby girl.


  1. Heartbreaking.

    If it's ok, I will miss Naomi alongside you.


  2. Your post really struck me. I too terminated a very much wanted pregnancy for medical reasons. I too have struggled with infertility. There is a wonderful support group for those of us who have endured this tragedy. E-mail me and I will direct you on how to find it. There is a special board for women who are expecting again subsequent to a pregnancy with a poor prenatal diagnosis.